Hank CongerThe normally defensive-minded Tampa Bay Rays made a head-scratching trade when they acquired catcher Hank Conger from the Houston Astros for the always dubious “cash considerations.”

In parts of six seasons with the Angels and Astros, Conger has hit .225 with a .298 OBP and 14 homes every 162 games. His .297 wOBA also suggests that he hasn’t exactly been unlucky at the plate either.

But that is not even the worrisome part. The really bad part is that Conger, last season, had arguably the worst season trying to throw out base stealers ever. As in all-time. As in over a hundred years of baseball.

In 2014, 43 base runners attempted to steal on Conger in just 69 games behind the plate. Conger threw out exactly one, a whopping 2.3% caught rate. For comparison, Rene Rivera threw out 23 of the 63 (37%) would-be base stealers last year. According to Ben Lindbergh of FiveThirtyEight.com, Conger’s rate is the lowest ever recorded.

Lindbergh goes into some detail on why Conger is so bad throwing the ball. In short, he is basically the perfect storm of bad throwing from behind the plate. His arm is not that strong and he is too slow to release the ball.

So why would the Rays want such a terrible defensive catcher? Because he is actually not as terrible as it sounds.

Throwing out base runners is something that is easy to grasp, but according to Lindbergh, it is really not that important. The worst catcher at throwing out runners in 2015 only cost his team 6.3 runs more than the best-throwing catcher.

On the other hand, the difference the best catcher at framing pitches saved his team 44.2 runs more than the worst catcher. In other words, framing a pitch is far more valuable than throwing out baserunners (as soon as I finish this post, I am sending it to all the college scouts that watched me play in high school with a big fat “I TOLD YOU SO”).

While Conger was only slightly above-average at framing pitches in 2015 (he saved the Astros about 3.6 runs), he was one of the top framing catchers in 2013 and 2014 (17.2 and 24.9 runs saved, respectively). So the Rays actually got a good defensive catcher, and they got him for what was probably not very much money.

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7 Comments

  1. Nathan says:

    Well, duh. Look at the picture. He's only throwing with one eye open. That'll be real easy to fix!!!

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  2. Woodrow744 says:

    Rays President Matt Silverman explains: "we have metrics that show Conger, on Wednesday night games, in the 3rd inning, is actually the best player in the history of baseball. We stole this guy!" The Astros, for their part, put out the following tweet: "How did we let this happen? Damn those Rays!"

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  3. Ken says:

    Still waiting for the metric that shows being a cheap ass front office ultimately is worth a 7.8 WAR.

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  4. edward says:

    I'm still waiting for this area to start getting on the ownership here, they constantly complain about the attendance and how they don't have the revenues to go out and spend on free agents, well than sell the team, I read in the paper today that matt silverman said that they have no real weaknesses now and are set for a spot in the playoffs. Huh, maybe it is just me but does anybody really think that this team will get to the playoffs, yes they have a good pitching staff , but good enough to win a world series , after all isn't that what it is all about , not just getting into the playoffs. When the bucs weren't spending the money the press in this town were going nuts , I guess maybe I need to get a clue and see that this isn't a baseball town, I don' t know anymore all I know is that I am getting tired of the same old stuff. Why should I spend my money and emotions on this team anymore if the owner doesn't spend his money or emotions. I guess I am just a sucker for baseball.

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  5. Ken J says:

    The owner of the rays says keep buying tickets and paying 8 bucks for a cup of budwieser and I' ll be able to bring in players like hank conger( who by the way in a game last season against the rays struck out FIve times) . We are really improving!

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  6. Roger says:

    So we let J.P. Arencebia go but yet keep Rene and sign this guy. Really? I am sorry but moves like this are a joke. Why would any quality player come to this organization .

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  7. Lurkey says:

    They Rays don't have a revenue or profitability problem. It's smoke and mirrors.

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